Framed against what is becoming recognized as a nationwide problem of prosecutorial abuse of power, the Rubashkin case is testing the health and viability of the broader American system of justice.
To date, five congressmen have written to Attorney General Eric Holder, urging him to investigate what New York Rep. Anthony Weiner has called “credible allegations of misconduct.”
Joining Congressman Weiner are Rep. Mike McMahon (D-NY), Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa), Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-Mass) and Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Ca).
The latest congressional voice to call for an investigation by the Justice Department is by Congressman Alan Grayson (D-FL), whose letter can be seen below:
October 22, 2010
The Honorable Eric Holder
Attorney General of the United States
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530
Dear Attorney General Holder,
Thank you for your leadership and continued service to our nation. I write regarding the criminal prosecution of Sholom Rubashkin, the former manager of the Agriprocessors kosher meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa. While I agree Mr. Rubashkin must pay his debt to society for the crimes he has committed, I call on the Department of Justice to review the sentencing recommendation that was rendered in this case.
As you know, in May 2008, Mr. Rubashkin was arrested for immigration law violations at the Agriprocessor’s plant. While the initial charges were dismissed by the government, Mr. Rubashkin was ultimately tried and found guilty of bank fraud and related white-collar crimes in November 2009. Recently, in June 2010, he was sentenced to 27 years in prison-two years beyond the government sentencing recommendation.
Mr. Rubashkin’s 27-year sentence raises a number of concerns for me, not only because he is a first-time offender but more because of Mr. Rubashkin’s age. Ultimately, Mr. Rubashkin is 51 years old, and a 27 year sentences amounts to life in prison. This sentence has been criticized by former attorney generals and U.S. attorneys, lawyers, law scholars and fellow colleagues from the U.S. House of Representatives for being excessive. Prior requests by Members of Congress to the U.S. Department of Justice calling for a review of allegations of ex parte discussions in this case by the federal judge with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and immigration officials prior to the 2008 raid have fallen on deaf ears.
Controversy has enveloped this case-particularly the sentencing decision for Mr. Rubashkin, therefore, I respectfully request a full review of this case. Mr. Holder, if the integrity of a case is called into question, it is imperative for us to be just in the rule and execution of the law. I know you share this belief, and look forward to working with you on this important case.
Thank you for your attention and prompt consideration of my request.
Member of Congress
Congresswoman Shelley Berkley (D-NV) joined the call, writing the following to Attorney General Holder yesterday:
October 26, 2010
Dear Attorney General Holder:
I am writing to call your attention to the recent prosecution and conviction of Sholom Rubashkin, a former chief executive officer of the defunct Agriprocessors, the largest kosher meatpacking plant in the U.S. In November 2009, after being convicted of 86 counts of financial fraud, Mr. Rubashkin was sentenced to 27 years imprisonment of Judge Linda Reade.
The federal investigation into Mr. Rubashkin’s financial dealings began after a May 2008 workplace raid that netted 389 illegal aliens. Certainly, the employment of hundreds of illegal aliens and perpetration of bank fraud are inexcusable. However, it has been brought to my attention that prior to that operation, agents from several federal departments met with Judge Reade. Information about this meeting was not presented to defense attorneys, suggesting that it may have been proper for the judge to have recused herself from the trial. Questions have been raised about the extent of the collaboration between Judge Reade and federal agents. The possible violation of the judicial principles of transparency and fairness – two fundamental features of the American courtroom – is deeply problematic.
I am aware that several of my colleagues in Congress have contacted you in support of a thorough investigation into the handling of Mr. Rubashkin’s case by Judge Reade and prosecution. Please keep me informed of developments in this matter. I look forward to your reply.
Member of Congress